Full Name: Chuka Umunna
From: Streatham, South London
PPC for: Streatham, www.streathamlabour.org.uk
Selection Result: 175 -162
Member of the Labour Party since: 1997
I have practiced as a solicitor specialising in employment law since 2004. I mostly act for employees, though I act for employers of all types too. I have served as a trustee of several youth charities and as a local school governor since 2006. I am also a freelance journalist and have written for a variety of publications including the Guardian (I am a regular contributor to Comment Is Free), the New Statesman and the Financial Times.
I was inspired to go into politics because:
The constituency I hope to represent takes in Streatham, a large swathe of Brixton, and parts of Balham, Clapham and Tulse Hill in South West London. I grew up in and still live in the constituency. During the 1980s the area suffered disproportionately from the adverse affects of Thatcherism and, even at a young age, this made a big impression on me. In my youth I also often visited my father’s native Nigeria and came face to face with the extreme poverty one sees in Africa in the heart wrenching appeal videos produced by the likes of Oxfam and Comic Relief every year. I simply could not understand why some had so much, whilst others had so little. From there sprung a desire to do something about it and the other challenges we face.
My main policy interests are:
Education, equality, and community and youth engagement.
Three things I think should be in the next Labour manifesto are:
1 – A Living Wage: The minimum wage is great but it is not something people in my local community can live off here in London. We should look to incrementally introduce a living wage starting with the public sector by building the obligation to pay a living wage into all public sector contracts. Ken Livingstone started it in London at the GLA; Labour nationally should now follow his example.
2 – A Green New Deal: This is a no brainer. We have to radically change the way we live and the recession provides us with an excellent opportunity to do just that. We can grow our way out of recession, in part, by making the UK the world leader in new green technology which would create thousands of jobs.
3 – Housing: At present we have 5 million people nationally on the social housing waiting list and 600,000 families living in overcrowded units. We need to fundamentally transform the housing market so that we have a diverse, mixed economy in housing and can offer a range of affordable choices for everyone.
I think people should vote for me because:
I love my community – the place and its people. I understand what makes it tick because it is where I am from and where I grew up.
An MP with wonderful policies and principles is useless if they are lazy. I will work tirelessly for local people. I have assisted our present Labour MP, Keith Hill, at his surgeries for the last four years. He has been an assiduous constituency MP and I have every intention of following his example.
Our community in Streatham has massively benefited from the last decade of Labour government in many areas but the gap between the rich and the poor is still too big, there are still people living in poverty, we need better and more affordable homes, more school places and people want more of a say over their lives. I am not afraid to say this and will work to build a fairer, more equal, democratic and environmentally sustainable Streatham.
I am young relative to other politicians but have plenty of experience outside of Westminster to bring to the table. I am a solicitor, a trustee of two youth charities and a school governor – this can all be brought to bear on policy and on promoting local people’s interests.
Finally, politics is due a huge change. I am part of a new generation which, contrary to popular myth, is not apathetic about politics but disdainful of party politics and the traditional ways of doing things. Politicians need to listen more and lecture less, empower people to make their own decisions, and not patronise. I am already doing this using new media and by regularly consulting people, but I think we need to go further. I would work to implement a transformational constitutional reform agenda to bring about the change we want to see, so more people in Streatham and beyond are moved to get involved with and benefit from the democratic process.
For more on Chuka, please visit his website at www.streathamlabour.org.uk.